Delivering the Power of the Panhandle

Clean Line Energy is playing host to a series of public open house meetings to discuss its ongoing wind energy transmission line project, and was in Guymon early Tuesday morning to discuss where the project currently stands. The project has been in the works since 2009, with construction slated to begin in the next 18-24 months with completion by 2017.But progress is being made.The $2 billion, 750-mile Plains & Eastern Clean Line project includes a converter station in Texas County which will convert Alternating Current to Direct Current electricity and transport it on high voltage direct current transmission lines from Texas County to another converter station near Memphis, Tenn. The Oklahoma Panhandle wind power will then be distributed to homes and businesses throughout the southeastern United States.The amount of energy delivered annually by the project once completed will be three times what is produced by the Hoover Dam near Las Vegas.The impact for Texas County will be jobs and investment.“The combination of wind farms and our transmission project are big investments,” said Mario Hurtado of Clean Line Energy. “It adds a lot to the ad valorem property tax base for the county. About 80 percent of that in Oklahoma goes to the schools.”The entire project from Guymon to Memphis will create 500 permanent jobs and more than 5,000 construction jobs. And the company said that it will contract locally for construction that takes place here.Clean Line has been working with landowners for more than a year to narrow down the transmission line corridors between here and Tennessee. The project has to take into account landowner wishes, as well as avoid agricultural lands, state and federal land, water resources, known cultural resources, schools, airports and engineering restraints, among other items.The current plans are for the converter station to be built near Guymon, probably south of town., where it will convert electricity from future wind farms across Texas County. The transmission lines will follow roughly along Highway 3 toward Woodward and follow an east-southeast track south of Enid and north of Oklahoma City, across Arkansas to another converter station near Memphis.The exact track of the transmission lines is far from being determined, but it has been narrowed down.“We’re looking at some potential routes and we’re looking at areas that are about a mile wide,” Hurtado said. “Within that area we’re only going to need about 150 feet. The idea is over the next few months we’re going to start narrowing it down a lot more.”And once that’s done, the company will begin talking to land owners about the possibility of buying rights-of-way.In the last 18 months, Clean Line earned public utility status in the state of Oklahoma, and has worked closely with environmental groups in the Panhandle to protect the Lesser Prairie Chicken, which is protected in Oklahoma but hunted in Kansas.“We want to find areas that aren’t going to become a problem,” Hurtado said.Clean Line has also contracted with Claremore-based Pelco Structural to build the actual tubular structures that will support the transmission lines.On Sept. 11, the company obtained regulatory approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to begin negotiating transmission service agreements with potential customers along the project corridor.Tuesday morning’s open house in Guymon was the first of several planned for cities and towns along the proposed transmission line route. The company also held a meeting Tuesday afternoon in Beaver, with meetings planned today in Woodward and Fairview, Thursday in Enid and Stillwater, Friday in Bristow, Oct. 15 in Okmulgee and Oct. 16 in Muskogee and Sallisaw.